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Blackpink Read by Helen Park

The four phenomenally talented women of K-Pop band Blackpink may have been born in different countries, but they love each other like sisters. Fans worldwide are obsessed with their iconic style, fierce choreography, passionate climate activism, and of course, their super catchy songs!

This podcast is a production of Rebel Girls. It’s based on the book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. This story was produced by Joy Smith with sound design and mixing by Reel Audiobooks. It was written by Nicole Haroutunian and edited by Abby Sher. Fact-checking by Joe Rhatigan. Narration by Helen Park. Original theme music was composed and performed by Elettra Bargiacchi. Thank you to the whole Rebel Girls team who make this podcast possible. Stay rebel!

Get to Know Helen Park

Get to know Helen Park, who read us the story of Blackpink! Helen is an award-winning composer and music producer for Broadway, TV, and film. Hear about the first song she ever wrote, and how she stays true to her own voice!

Transcript

Backstage, the girls of Blackpink were electric with anticipation. Their names—Jisoo! Lisa! Jennie! Rosé!—lit up giant screens, introducing them to an eager crowd. Blackpink was the first all-female K-Pop group to ever play at Coachella, a huge, legendary music festival in California. Some of their devoted fans—called Blinks!—were out in the audience, but so were plenty of people who’d never heard of the Korean popstars. 

Were they ready for Blackpink?
And was Blackpink ready for them?

I’m Helen Park. And this is Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls.

A fairy tale podcast about the rebel women who inspire us. 

On this episode, Blackpink, the K-Pop girl group who’s been taking the world by storm since 2016.

The stage lights went dark, and the band ran out, striking dramatic poses. Then, boom! The backdrop burst with pink fireworks and Blackpink launched into their hit song DDU-DU DDU-DU. Long hair flying, bejeweled outfits sparkling, they dazzled everyone with their synchronized choreography. After their spectacular opening number, they went straight into hit after hit. They mesmerized the crowd with joyful pop, hard-hitting rap, and high energy hip-hop — singing in both English and Korean. 

Their hooks kept coming, their dancing was nonstop, and their magical chemistry was obvious. The audience swelled and cheered. Between songs, Rosé cried, “I can’t believe how many people came out tonight! Is this real?” 

The crowd roared and even did the wave in appreciation. 

It was real. It was remarkable. And it was just the beginning for Blackpink.

After Coachella, the band felt so relieved and exhilarated. It couldn’t have gone better! 

They’d worked so hard to get to this moment…each with their own incredible journey. Jisoo was a powerful vocalist, hailing from Gunpo, South Korea. Lisa was a dancer and rapper from Thailand. Jennie was a rapper from Seoul and New Zealand, and often acted like the leader of the group. And Rosé was the main vocalist and guitarist, born and raised in New Zealand and Australia. 

So how had they all found each other, and learned to perform so incredibly as a record-charting, show-stopping quartet?

The answer was simple: fate and their dreams of K-Pop stardom.  

Well, to be more precise, it was fate, dreams, and YG Entertainment, an agency that formed and promoted K-Pop bands. Korean Pop is a trendsetting musical genre influenced by hip hop, EDM, house, and more. YG executives auditioned hundreds of teenage musicians and performers from all over the globe to become K-Pop trainees. 

When Jisoo, Lisa, Jennie, and Rosé found out they were selected to be trainees, they were beyond thrilled. But it was also scary to leave everything they’d ever known and relocate their lives to Seoul, South Korea. This was where YG entertainment set up dorms so the musicians could go to rockstar academy. 

The night they all met for the first time, Rosé was very homesick. After all, she was only fifteen, and she’d just flown thousands of miles to a different continent, leaving her family behind.

Jisoo, Jennie, and Lisa tried to be warm and welcoming when Rosé came into their communal kitchen. Spotting her guitar, they asked, “Play us something?” 

Rosé still had a lump in her throat, but she picked up her guitar and started strumming. She knew that music always made her feel better. The other three began singing and pretty soon, Rosé couldn’t help joining in too. Hitting the right notes took a few tries, but she found her place, like the missing piece of a puzzle. Before long, the four girls were dancing on the kitchen table, belting their hearts out.

The YG dorms were full of hard-working artists and musicians. As K-Pop trainees, all of them spent grueling,  fourteen-hour days practicing. Their strict music and dance coaches had tons of rules. No driving and no dating. It was very challenging, and exhausting! Their training lasted for years. Some trainees decided it was too much or were sent home. 

Jisoo, Lisa, Jennie, and Rosé stuck it out. Often, they saw dark circles under each other’s eyes from not enough sleep. Sometimes, they even saw tears. 

Through it all, though, they stayed by each other’s side. 

After long, hard days, Jennie whipped up her famous scrambled eggs for the other three and served them with strawberry jam. Over their salty-sweet comfort food, the foursome chatted and scrolled through pictures of Jennie’s puppies Kai and Kuma. They shared stories, dreams, hopes and fears. 

They still didn’t know if they’d make it through the academy and be put in a band together — that was all up to the YG agency. But it was clear to everyone around them that these four built a sisterhood that was inspiring and true.

Finally, in 2016, YG dropped the news—a new girl group was about to debut. One by one, they announced the members: Jisoo! Lisa! Jennie! Rosé!

As a group, they decided to call themselves Blackpink, to reflect how they were tough and bubbly at the same time. They got straight to work, developing fabulous choreography and writing dynamic new songs. They released a debut mini album, Square One, that rocketed up the charts, and became the most followed act on YouTube. They also used their platform to show pride in their cultures, wearing Korean hanboks in one video and using traditional instruments in another. In just a few blinks, they went from performing on the kitchen table to some of the biggest arenas in Korea, Asia, and the world! 

Which brings us back to that fantastic performance at Coachella in 2019. Stepping out onto that stage was momentous not just for Jisoo, Lisa, Jennie, and Rosé. It marked the beginning of a new wave in global music appreciation. 

Blackpink expanded people’s ideas about Korean pop, about group synthesis, and about the art of performance itself. Since that festival, Jisoo, Lisa, Jennie, and Rosé have each branched out to pursue new dreams, like recording solo albums and acting. They’ve become passionate climate activists, too, even speaking as advocates for the United Nations. 

Whatever they do though, they always come back together to perform as Blackpink. The strength and inspiration they find in each other is undeniable. You can feel it whenever they sing or dance together, or when they’re sitting around, making each other laugh.

“Blackpink in your area!” 

This is their rallying cry. People yell it at concerts all the time. When fans hear it, they feel like they’re included in Jisoo, Lisa, Jennie, and Rosé’s iconic friendship. They feel like they’re part of the magic too — spreading wild love and hope to all.